Driverless delivery vehicles are now part of Uber’s long term plans, it seems. The ride-hailing giant has acquired Otto, a self driving tech startup, for approximately $680 million, giving Uber an in-road into the haulage industry.
It’s been reported that all of Otto’s team, which includes ex-leader of Google’s self-driving project, Anthony Levandowski, will move to Uber. They will work on the company’s self-driving project and report directly to CEO Travis Kalanick. Otto’s research facilities in Palo Alto and San Francisco will continue to operate, and will share knowledge with Uber’s Pittsburgh research center.
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Otto’s specialism is installing a self-driving system into built trucks. The technology is based around Otto’s system of sensors, including a LiDAR sensor.
“Together with Uber, we will create the future of commercial transportation: first, self-driving trucks that provide drivers unprecedented levels of safety; and second, a platform that matches truck drivers with the right load wherever they are,” said Otto in a blog post confirming the acquisition.
Serial innovator Uber has recently partnered with Volvo Cars to work on a project for autonomous driving technologies, with a view to offer fully driverless cars for cabs in the future. This new acquisition of Otto puts Uber in easy reach of a whole new market specialism – long-distance delivery services.
This could be a logical step but there are many unknowns here from concerns about the safety on roads, to the massive practical issue of a lack of service and communication once the human touch is removed. Uber is thinking of long distance trips here, rather than final mile delivery, but with future-gazing in its DNA, surely it won’t be long before Uber gets in on the home delivery act.
The company motto – ‘rethinking transportation’ – suggests they have big plans that could have an impact on the e-commerce fulfilment world in the not too distant future.
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